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UGA installs iris biometrics in dining halls, rec center

The University of Georgia will be using iris biometrics to enable student access to its dining halls and rec center beginning with the coming fall semester.

The implementation of iris biometrics comes as part of an initiative that will replace the current hand geometry readers and card swipe access methods. As reported by The Red & Black, dining services officials believe the new iris biometrics system should be both faster and more sanitary than the current system.

“We’re just making it more efficient and easier to gain access to the dining commons,” said Brian Varin, executive director of dining services, in a Red And Black interview. “It’s really fast and very convenient. We’re really excited about it. We think it’s going to be a good enhancement.”

The University of Georgia is familiar with biometrics for access, having leveraged hand geometry biometrics at the dining hall since 2004. Iris biometrics, meanwhile, is no stranger to the state of Georgia, with Georgia Southern University having implemented the technology for dining hall ingress in 2014.

The new system at UGA will remove the need for students to enter their ID number, and unlike the previous hand geometry scanners, students on a commuter plan can for the first time leverage the biometric system.

Pre-enrollment began in mid April, with some 900 students registering in the first week alone. The iris program is also being incorporated into the orientation process, where it will be a part of student ID card issuance. University officials expect most of the student body to be enrolled in the system by 2021.

ColorID is the system vendor behind the iris project at UGA, and according to Mark Degan, the company’s director of marketing, UGA opted for a database that will support up to 50,000 enrolled users. The program will also see 13 cameras deployed across all of the university’s dining halls, as well as in the student rec center.

The first of the cameras will be installed in the university’s card office prior to the first orientation, with the other cameras being installed in the rec center and campus dining halls throughout the course of the summer. University officials say the program’s 13 cameras and the software to operate them cost roughly $70,000.

“What’s really great about this project is that we were able to implement biometric POS terminals at a new facility,” says Mark Degan, director of corporate marketing, ColorID. “UGA wanted the latest technology and ease of use for its students, and iris was a natural fit.”

It was also imperative for the university to supplant its long-used hand geometry system for a more advanced and reliable biometric. “With iris, the university is moving to something that’s a lot more precise. Hand geometry is an older modality and the implementation at UGA had been in place for a long time,” adds Degan. “With these types of installations, it sometimes seems like you have to ratchet down the reader threshold to effectively grab the unique points of a hand. Iris is more precise, quicker, and recognizes over 200 unique points for each scan.”

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